Why dog adoption is so rewarding

Nestled in the sprawling red rocks of southern Utah, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary is more than a refuge for homeless pets. It’s a place where transformations happen every day.

No matter where animals came from, what happened in their pasts or what challenges they face, they receive the medical care, TLC and training they need to help them into the next phases of their lives — new homes.

In the following story, Sanctuary adoption specialist Lauren Kehoe, a matchmaker who helps pair up dogs with new families, shares two of her favorite dog adoption stories.

Animal rescue can be emotional work. Every day we help dogs who have lost their homes, often through no fault of their own. There are countless reasons why dogs end up in shelters, at rescue organizations and at the Sanctuary. While some may have behavioral issues, many dogs are surrendered as a result of an owner’s lifestyle change, such as moving, divorce, money problems, illness or the lack of time or energy for a dog. But there are a lot of open-minded, awesome adopters willing to give these dogs a second chance.

Seeing one of our dogs go into a forever home makes all that tugging on our heartstrings worth it. Whether or not a dog has physical or behavioral challenges and is here for a few days or a few years, helping to find that loving forever home is incredibly rewarding.

Dog with ‘stranger danger’ meets new best friend

One of our recent adoptions that really hit home for me was Wally. Wally was about five years old, and he takes a few supplements to help with the effects of Lyme disease. The wife in Wally’s previous home passed away, and the husband sold his home to travel the country in an RV.

Wally wasn’t comfortable with the new lifestyle and ended up at Best Friends. He was great with dogs and even found a “mini-me” version of himself to be his friend. He could be nervous with new people, and he would avoid them and bark at them. As soon as he recognized someone as safe, his whole body would wiggle and he showed his teeth in his signature smile.

Wally the tan fuzzy dog jumping up and playing with another black dog

Even though he would warm up to people after a proper introduction, he wasn’t the most popular dog for people to meet for adoption. But then I received an application from a single guy in his 20s who was looking for one of our more difficult-to-place dogs. I offered him suggestions, one of which was Wally. He drove down from northern Utah to meet Wally the next day, and Wally did amazing with him. The adopter witnessed Wally’s nervousness when someone entered his room and was willing to work with it. We finalized the paperwork and Wally was on his way home.

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Trio gives dog her second chance

Another amazing adoption was Rory. Rory had lost her previous home and had bitten someone in the past. And while she was friendly with some dogs, she didn’t like others. That meant finding her a home would be more challenging.

I received an application from a couple in Arizona on a Thursday night, and they drove up Friday morning to spend the weekend with Rory. The only regular visitor to their home was their son, and he drove up separately on Friday, despite having to work the next morning at 5 a.m.

Because Rory can be uncomfortable with overhandling or petting, we gave her some space as we entered the room to hang out with her after a walk. When she let them pet her, it was clear that she immediately fit right in as part of the family. Sometimes, dogs just know!

Moments like these make the emotional ups and downs of animal rescue all worth it. Every dog adopted into a forever home is a victory to celebrate.

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Smiling woman holding a blue ball and a brown dog looking at it

Photos by Kurt Budde and Molly Wald